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All week here in Philadelphia we have talked about Andy Reid trying to “ice” the New York Giants kicker just prior to a game winning field goal attempt. That got me thinking about the greatest sport on ice that is once again on the sidelines because of a labor dispute. For the third time since 1994-95, NHL players are locked out because they can not agree with owners on a new collective bargaining deal.
Now like most fans I have come to understand that sports is a business and labor disputes will happen. But how is it possible that a sport that struggles for attention and ratings would allow this to happen 3 times in under 20 years? The NFL was in a similar dispute prior to the start of last season. They could of missed games and bounced back very quickly because this country is addicted to football. Even the NFL and their almighty and sometimes arrogant Commissioner Roger Goodell realized missing games just did not make sense. The NFL managed to come to an agreement just before training camp and no games were sacrificed. So if Mr. Goodell realized this how does NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman allow this to happen over and over again to a sport that this country barely pays attention to? I realize Mr. Bettman works for the owners but a strong commissioner would step in and make all sides realize what needs to be done for the good of the game.
If the owners really want to grow this sport it is time they find a strong forward thinking person to lead it. Gary Bettman has proven during his time with the NHL that he will only take the game so far. The NHL has a lot of things going for it right now that they need to capitalize on. They have a TV network (NBC Sports) dedicating hours of coverage to the game. They have young superstars to market like Claude Giroux and Sidney Crosby. The Winter Classic has been a revelation and this year the game is scheduled to take place at the University of Michigan in front of over 100,000 fans. Most importantly more kids are playing hockey across the United States exposing them to how great a game this is.
Despite all of that it appears the league is prepared to throw a great opportunity away and actually decimate an already thin fan base. So it is time that NHL fans call on the owners to step up and save the game we love to watch. Get a new deal done and then find someone not named Gary Bettman to take this sport to another level.
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